Why I Love Skillshare // An Online Creative Learning Community

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats // Skillshare Calligraphy 101 Project by Jitney's Journeys

If you've had a face-to-face conversation with me in the past year, I probably mentioned my love for Skillshare at one point or another. Why? Because I'm obsessed. I think it's one of the greatest creative communities of all-time and I've consumed more knowledge through the classes, teachers and students than I have in years.

Skillshare is an online learning community for creators. Unlike traditional study, online classes at Skillshare are taught by industry experts and focus on learning by doing. The courses, which are not accredited, accept anyone who wants to learn.

I grew up in a wonderfully creative home. My parents always nourished the wild curiosities and adventurous endeavors that my brother, Chase, and I put our minds to. They never squashed our excitement for new projects (regardless of how crazy, messy or strange they were). In fact, they encouraged them.

However, my design background started in a high school journalism classroom with one of my favorite teachers, Brian Cole. He taught the intricacies of InDesign and photography. While writing copy was somewhat enjoyable, I couldn't get enough of playing with different layouts. I continued to Auburn where I studied public relations and finished out my degree working as a marketing / PR intern at Mammoth Printshop where I had the opportunity to sit alongside Whitney Zech, a phenomenal graphic designer who rekindled a crazy passion for design within my soul. She taught me the basics of Illustrator and it was over for me. I couldn't get enough of it. But then I graduated and JD & I moved to a small town so I was basically on my own for learning. I wasn't sure where to go for that (unless I went back to school), so I focused instead on arts and crafts for a few years until Chase told me about Skillshare. It took me a while before I signed up but I asked my friend, Ashley, to join me in one of the handlettering projects and she was in. 

I'm semi-embarrassed to admit that I'm always one for free trials then dropping the 'service' when the trial period is over but Skillshare is one of the few things I believe in paying for. After the first free month, I became addicted to learning these new skills. A lot of people ask how I have time to watch the videos and do the challenges. I'll tell you how: I make time for it. I make it a priority. I believe in learning. I believe in excelling. I believe in expanding your skills. I believe in joining in community with others so that we can be better. (Plus, it helps that I work solo in the studio all day and have the videos playing on repeat while I work on custom projects). During every trip we've taken in the past year, I've focused on one class and one project. It's because of Skillshare that I've been exposed to true techniques of handlettering, calligraphy, surface pattern design and so many other design niches. 

The most recent project I've finished is the Calligraphy 101 class, taught by Bryn Chernoff. I couldn't describe Skillshare in any better light than this: 

Calligraphy 101 Skillshare Project by Whitney Todd @ Jitney's Journeys

'Picking the phrase or quote' was definitely the most difficult part of this challenge for me. It was so hard to narrow it down but I wanted to use a phrase that has encouraged me as a creative, in hopes that it will encourage all of you as well! 

I was sharing with my friend, Lauren (from the Department of Agraculture), the other day about how I quickly plunge from inspired to discouraged when scrolling through my Instagram feed and Pinterest. At first, I feel like, "Yes! I can do this. I can create something wonderful too!" But then the disillusionment of, "No, I can't. Everyone is accomplishing so much more than me," sets in. Lauren quickly diffused this by sharing John F. Kennedy's quote: "A rising tide lifts all boats." Even though Kennedy was referring to the economy in this speech, one of the creatives she follows on IG shared the quote in a post and wrote about how this is the same effect for creatives. When one of us is successful, it's like a rising tide and it lifts us all to succeed as well. Instead of getting discouraged by others' success, we should be excited for them, knowing that it is a sweet tide of success, lifting up the world of creativity, knowing that s/he is making a way for us all, creating opportunity. 

Don't get me wrong, I still get discouraged every now and then, but that perspective changed a lot for me. When I see the teachers and students of Skillshare, I see this quote played into motion. So many have been willing to share skills that we wouldn't be able to have access to otherwise. Because of the variety of classes offered, we're able to create that tide, to build skill on top of skill, and to reach new levels of creativity we've only imagined. I've been deeply inspired by this community coupled with the encouragement and tips we're able to give one another. 

Check out my full project and steps here. Want to join in on the fun with Skillshare? Get a free month membership here! Let me know which class you take and maybe we can take it together! 

The Story Behind Encourage Huntsville with Jacki Gil of Salt + Paperie

If you've been reading our blog for a while, you know that community is deeply important to us here at Jitney's. We are ecstatic any time we see community developing and transitioning. We love seeing people connect, build relationships and grow together. It's everywhere and yet, we still can't get enough of it.

Knowing this, you can only imagine how thrilled I was when Jacki Gil of Salt + Paperie started Encourage Huntsville. And dang, has she started it!!

Jacki Gil of Salt + Paperie

Here's her story:

I’ve always felt like Huntsville and me were like a round peg in a square hole. I loved this town so much, and my family was here that I never really had a desire to move anywhere with the “big city” creativity or even somewhere artsy like Chattanooga. I wanted to be here, even if that meant not having the easiest road to finding my creative “dream job." I did a series of design jobs that varied from love to hate, until a year ago I took the leap of faith into the journey we will call “entrepreneur!” By the grace of God, and a catchy name, that still no one can seem to pronounce with confidence (salt + PAPER-E… lol) we have had a first year that exceeded all expectations. 

Somewhere along that year journey, people began coming to me looking for advice, brain-picking and business advice. All the while, I’m thinking… I do NOT have this figured out in the LEAST. I’m not even a year in (yet! I celebrated my workaversary May 1st!). But, I enjoyed talking to people about their journey into small business ownership, even if I was literally just confirming their awesome ideas and giving no advice, it seemed to help them have the “courage” to take whatever next step they needed, even if it was just heading down to the courthouse for a business license. 

One day, I’m not kidding you… it was like a lightbulb… entrepreneur + courage = encourage! OMG! ding ding ding. So, the “big picture” of Encourage Huntsville is to help small businesses grow or gain confidence through what will eventually be seminars directed and lead by what I call the best of the best in small business ownership, so much so that they might not even be considered small anymore! We will cover topics from taxes to families, and I could not be more excited.

The other half of Encourage is to just to help the average Huntsvillian connect to their creative side. Even the engineer in town needs a creative outlet. Or should I say ESPECIALLY the engineer. A lot of people have already confessed to me that they haven’t signed up because “they aren’t creative”, but that is exactly the opposite of what the point is! Creativity “can’t be used up, the more you use it, the more you have” (Maya Angelou). It’s simply a place to connect with friends and others around Huntsville to try something new that you just might love! 

I seriously hope that this passion project of mine can fuel a creative fire in Huntsville. I definitely want to be just the curator of talent for Encourage Huntsville, but the #handletterhuntsville and monthly lettering challenge was my way of testing the waters to see how much interest their was in the whole idea. I could teach that and get a feel for if this was really something people wanted to do… and, much to our surprise, it was a bigger hit than we could have ever imagined. So much so, we were scrambling to kind of ride the coat tails of the first class straight into Encourage. Now we are getting tons of other classes besides handlettering lined up, and I can’t WAIT to announce them! EEEEKK!!


Above: A few of Jacki Gil's (from Encourage Huntsville // Salt + Paperie) most lovely handlettered Instagram posts! 

Michelle Odom from Just Crumbs Cake Design will be teaching a Fondant Basics Workshop soon!! You do not want to miss this! Encourage Huntsville is giving away a free seat to the class on May 29th!  

Encourage Huntsville on Instagram
Encourage Huntsville on Facebook
Salt + Paperie on Instagram
Salt + Paprier on Facebook
Just Crumbs Cake Design on Instagram
Just Crumbs Cake Design on Facebook